I had to look it up, but Windows 10 was released in late July, 2015. Wow, how time flies. Microsoft called it “the last version of Windows” and they seem to be keeping to that — despite a few updates that largely appealed to fringe users, they’ve kept the operating system incredibly, totally the same.
Oh, I don’t want to belittle the efforts of the Microsoft engineers who would no doubt tell me that the “Fall Creators Update,” which you probably received sometime in the last month, contains 10 million new lines of code or something like that. In fact, it’s a testament to those very engineers that despite what I only assume are massive under-the-hood changes, Windows 10 feels pretty much the same as it did when I originally previewed in in the spring of ’15. Other than a few hiccups for a very small number of users, it’s been dead-on stable.
And, to be honest, it’s beginning to get a little boring.
Not that we really want our work PCs to be exciting. Microsoft learned that lesson in spades when it released Windows 8 five years ago. Its foreign-looking home screen and odd gestural interface were slammed in the media and although a quick update did help somewhat, that operating system will forever be thought of amongst failures like Windows Me and Windows Vista. Windows 10 brought sanity back to our lives and we’ve never looked back.
Interestingly enough, the lesson of Windows 8 was actually one taught by Steve Jobs when he released the iPad onto the world in 2010. The device, he said, should get out of the way as much as possible, and let the user experience the world of the computer as directly as possible. The same is true of Windows 10 — for the most part it gets out of the way, with a few black-framed informational bars around the edges and an easily-suppressed notification center. It doesn’t call attention to itself or demand that you learn something new to use it. Windows 10 is intentionally vanilla; it’s the beige paint of operating systems. For the most part, users seem to like it.
For its part, Microsoft has heard the call of the people. Its upgrade have been focused on drawing in creative types and building a more robust app store experience. People who just want to show up and use Office will find that Windows 10 won’t stop them a bit.
It’s just that… if this were any other time in Windows’ history, we’d probably be chafing for something new by now. Three years is about the typical lifespan of an operating system, and back in the 1990s and 2000s we’d be craving a little visual refresh. Perhaps it’s that the installed user base is older, and we’re more interested in our phones, but I haven’t heard anyone call Windows 10 “boring” yet or pine for Windows 11. Myself included, I guess; I mean I can add some pops of color or change some personalizations, but I’m not asking for more functions from Windows 10 or its core suite of apps. I use a PC to work, not play; those who use it to play are just as likely to go full-screen and the only thing they want out of the OS is that it not freeze.
So, it’s possible that Windows 10 might just be “the last version of Windows,” but I’m not sure Microsoft should be hoping for that. What the company’s learned in the last five years is that they’ll get high marks for keeping things just as they are. The company is stable and profitable and they’re moving quite successfully into the world of cloud services now. Windows is just the way people access the cloud, if they’re at a desk at least. Windows could be so much more, though; though the company’s pulled away from phones and true tablets, they haven’t yet delivered their VR “Hololens” device and I think they risk being thought of as irrelevant by today’s youth. That’s never a good thing.
So maybe, just maybe, the next version of Windows could give us a few visual tweaks along with some additional core functionality for average folks. Maybe keep making it better on power, maybe add built-in texting from the desktop. I don’t know, but as we look forward to three, four, five years of Windows 10, a little “fluff” might be just the thing to keep everyone happy. I’m not saying go full Windows 8 again, just maybe “a little” something.